Sharing your life with a cat can be a wonderful experience, but having a pet is not necessarily for everyone. There are important things to think through before adopting a new companion.
Before bringing a cat home, consider whether or not you’re ready for the commitment of caring for an animal. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you willing to commit to caring for a cat for her whole lifetime, which could be as long as twenty years?
- If your life circumstances change—you move, marry, have a child— will you keep your cat?
- Do you have time to spend with a cat? Despite the stereotype of the aloof tabby, cats need to give and receive love and attention every day.
- Are you financially prepared to care for a cat? The average cost for basic cat care is typically several hundred dollars a year; it could be more if your cat gets sick, requires emergency veterinary care, needs treatment for chronic issues, or other things.
- Finally, consider your lifestyle—are you a homebody or frequently out on the town? Are you more of a couch potato longing for a relaxation buddy? Are you ready to have a chatterbox at home, or do you prefer the sweet sound of silence? Do you find kitten-watching to be better than TV?
Kitten or Adult Cat
Remember that all cats require a commitment of time, money, and energy. Only consider adopting if you are sure you’re able to take on the responsibilities of caring for and supporting a cat.
Once you’ve made the decision to adopt, the next step toward establishing a long and lasting feline friendship is choosing the cat that’s right for you. Please consider adopting a homeless cat or kitten from DCHS or another animal shelter. Contrary to what some may believe, shelter cats are typically just as healthy, or healthier, than purebred or store bought cats. Also, by adopting a shelter cat, you will be helping to cut down animal overpopulation, and you will be giving a second chance to a cat in need.
Kittens are adorable, curious, playful and full of energy. They can also be exasperating at times, requiring lots of supervision to keep out of trouble, and more time and patience than older cats need. If you’re going to be a one-pet family, consider a somewhat older cat rather than a kitten. Kittens need constant stimulation, and a single, bored kitten will often entertain herself by scratching furniture, digging in or eating plants, or climbing curtains. Rather than inflicting twice the damage, two kittens usually take their energy out on each other, thus saving your belongings.
It is also important to consider your lifestyle before adopting a kitten. If your schedule already is packed and you have little time to spend at home with a pet, you should not adopt a kitten. Unless you have several hours a day to devote to a kitten, your friendly, affectionate kitten may grow up to become a shy, distant cat that may recognize you only as a food source.
There are many sweet, affectionate cats who are 8-years-old or older, who sit day after day with no adoption prospects in sight. People often shy away from older pets because they are afraid they’ll have to say goodbye sooner rather than later, but many cats live well into their teens. However, senior cats are typically more mellow and well-behaved. They are demonstrably grateful for a loving home and have so much love to give. They can often hunt and play with the best of ‘em, even if it’s for shorter bursts of time. Consider opening your heart and home to a senior. DCHS has many lovely senior cats and our staff can help you find the right one for you.
Cats, like people, are individuals. No two are exactly alike, whether they’re from the same breed or even the same litter.
Some cats are very mellow and will tolerate any kind of handling, including being dressed in clothes. These cats are perfect for young kids or older people who want and appreciate this type of cat. Other cats don’t like being picked up or held and will only come to you for petting when they feel like it—if you appreciate a bit of independence, this is the cat for you. There are cats that live to nap and cats that are perpetual motion machines.
With an adult, the personality you see is usually what you get, so if you are looking for specific qualities, consider cats that are a year and older.
Short or Long Fur
This is mainly a matter of preference and your willingness to devote time to regular grooming. Long-haired cats require frequent grooming sessions to prevent matting. Not all cats enjoy being brushed, though, and you could wind up having to take your long-hair to a groomer to be shaved down.
Short-haired cats don’t require as much brushing, but it helps to remove loose fur, stimulate the skin, and distribute oils through the coat. A cat that likes being groomed will come running when she sees the brush.
Shelters throughout the country—including DCHS—are filled with loving, wonderful cats who just need a little extra care—maybe a special food or a once-a-day medicine. If you have the time and resources to devote to one of these special-needs cats, consider adopting a cat who is feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) positive, or suffering from a nonlife threatening condition, such as deafness, blindness, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, shyness, or allergies. Special-needs cats are often known to develop incredibly strong bonds with their adoptive families, and like senior cats they often are overlooked and must wait a long time for their perfect adopter. Consider cutting that wait-time short by adopting one of DCHS’s awesome special-needs cats.
Room for one more?
If you already have pets, you have to consider them as well before bringing home a cat.
The good news is that cats can get along with other cats and—despite the common stereotype—most dogs can get along with cats. But it’s not necessarily easy to get them used to one another, and sometimes it can be impossible. Read more here about introducing a new cat to other pets »
Some cats may be perfectly happy as an only cat and could really resent having to share their home with another cat. The more cats you have, the more potential problems you invite; the cats can become stressed and develop undesirable behaviors such as spraying urine, fighting or hiding.
Dogs and cats can become best friends, but some dogs with a high prey drive may not be able to resist chasing, terrorizing or even killing the new cat.
Birds and cats have been known to co-exist peacefully, but remember that felines are hunters by instinct. A cat may traumatize your bird by trying to get at him through the bars of the cage.
No matter which cat you choose to be your new companion, remember to be patient and let him adjust at his own pace. You’ll both be happy if you do!